The Coffee Reviews You Need

Sam Catanzaro, Sports Editor
catanzar@grinnell.edu

As finals week approaches, the caffeine intake of Grinnell students is sure to increase. While some turn to sugary energy drinks or tea to charge them for an all-nighter, many have coffee as their beverage of choice. There are more or less only two options to buy a cup of Joe: the Spencer Grill and Saints Rest. Each place has its own unique characteristics, which may help students and faculty alike get their caffeine fix.

The Grill and Saints Rest both use beans from the same coffee roaster—Capital City Coffee Roasters in Altoona, Iowa. Variation in taste can therefore be attributed to differences in brewing methods, specifically the water to coffee ratio. The Grill uses a lot of water and little coffee which results in a weak cup, especially when compared to Saints where the coffee heavy ratio results in a bold tasting brew.

The Grinnell blend at the Grill and the House blend at Saints are the same. Comprised of Mexican, Tanzanian and Italian beans, this light roast is always available at both of these locations. At Saints, a cup of House tastes like classic coffee, not gourmet but drinkable and timeless, similar to “diner coffee.” Hints of citrus in the aftertaste give the coffee a pleasant bitterness that is not overwhelming due to the lightness of the roast.

The S&B coffee expert and barista Sam Catanzaro ’16 takes a sip of a cup of Joe behind their counter. (Photo by Sarah Ruiz.)

The S&B coffee expert and barista Sam Catanzaro ’16 takes a sip of a cup of Joe behind their counter. (Photo by Sarah Ruiz.)

At the Grill, by contrast, the greater amount of water used in the brewing process makes it hard to pick up the citrus undertones as the cup really just tastes like coffee-flavored water. That being said, the Grinnell Blend is a great choice for those trying to gulp down a coffee before that 8 a.m., due to its drinkability.

Double Dark is offered at both Saints and the Grill, and is a blend of Sumatra and Italian beans. As the name suggests, this is a dark roast, meaning it contains less caffeine (lighter roasts are more caffeinated). At Saints, Double Dark is a slightly bitter cup of coffee with strong nutty undertones. For those who like cream and sugar in their coffee, this is a great option. At the Grill, Double Dark has the same flavor profile as at Saints, only more subtle due to higher water to coffee ratio. Because it is such a dark roast, however, this is not necessarily a bad thing and one can expect a very drinkable cup of coffee, especially when black.
Black Velvet is a medium dark roast offered at both of these locations, and is a blend of Sumatran and French beans. With a sweet and nutty aroma, a cup of Black Velvet at the Grill seems to have great potential before one takes the first sip. However, one is greeted by wateriness that fades into a disappointing aftertaste. As the cup cools down, acidity begins to emerge leading to an unpleasant bitterness making it hard to finish the cup.

At Saints, a cup of Black Velvet is bold and nutty with a sweet aftertaste. While it also becomes acidic as it cools, it still remains drinkable with its sweetness. At both locations, this is not great option for those looking to gulp down a cup of coffee before class. At Saints, however, one should choose Black Velvet if one is trying to muse about the meaning of life while slowly sipping on a cup of coffee.

All the coffees discussed so far have been blends. While drinkable black, blends taste better with cream or sugar. Single origin roasts, however, are ideal for people who like to drink their coffee straight because one can really enjoy the subtleness of the bean in question.

Brazil Sierra Negra is a single origin from Saints Rest that is perfect for enjoying on its own. An extremely light roast, a cup of Brazil looks more like a cup of tea than a cup of coffee. Off the bat, one is greeted with a sweet and nutty taste that fades into a fruity aftertaste, perhaps peach. This is a very smooth cup of coffee that one can either slowly sip on or gulp down fast, and may be the best cup of coffee in Grinnell, Iowa. Unfortunately, Brazil is only offered once a week at Saints. Those who are captivated by the taste should pick up some beans and brew in their home or dorm.

All things considered, while Saint’s consistently offers better coffee, it is not on campus, so the Grill can be preferable for mere convenience. But for those with a bike and a free afternoon, there is no reason to not to go to Saints to get some readings done while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.

*Sam Catanzaro is a barista at Saints Rest Coffee House.